The Lord of the Rings: Reid Duke's childhood fascination became MTG's latest set


Growing up, I was a massive fan of Middle-earth. Like Frodo and Sam trudging along the path to Mordor, young Reid plodded his way through all 1200 pages of The Lord of the Rings, even though they’re not particularly easy books for kids. I read The Hobbit multiple times, watched the animated movies, wore Middle-earth t-shirts - the whole nine yards.

But of course, the best thing about Tolkien’s writing is the way it sparks your love of adventure, and invites your imagination to go wild. On hiking trips, we’d picture ourselves walking the Fellowship’s path, or starting off on our own quests, to achieve vastly more important ends. Which character would you be? I always liked the Dwarves, like Balin and Gimli. If Legolas had been there, they would’ve had no problem taking down Smaug!

Only shortly after getting into Magic: the Gathering (this was 1995, when I was five years old), we discovered the Middle-earth card game.

This game is no longer on the market, nor is it widely played (though I wouldn’t be surprised if it still has its die-hard fans). From what I remember, the rules were highly complex and cumbersome, especially for a six-year-old.

That said, the flavor couldn’t be beat. The art was evocative, and the characters and hazards like Celeborn, Bill, Burt and Tom were the coolest! I loved collecting the cards, and trying to assemble the most fun decks I possibly could. I remember I wanted to get all 13 dwarves from The Hobbit (sadly, I think I only made it to 10 or 11).

Flash forward to 2001, when The Fellowship of the Ring movie totally blew my mind. Scenes like "I think we should get off the road," and "Beautiful and terrible as the Dawn! Treacherous as the Seas!" are forever burned into my memory. I loved all of the LOTR and all of The Hobbit movies, but The Fellowship remains my favorite by far. I suppose it hit just right for that point in my childhood.

Now, we have MTG’s The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth being released, combining two of my lifelong passions. I can sometimes be a curmudgeon when it comes to these non-Standard-release Magic sets, but even I can’t have a bad attitude about a crossover this awesome and fun.

The set will be legal in older formats, including Modern, and will be a fully-supported Limited format. This is the aspect I’m looking forward to the most. Will I go for a green deck full of Ents? Or try to capitalize on red’s more aggressive Riders of Rohan?

Quickbeam, Upstart EntEomer of the Riddermark

There’s also my content creation for ChannelFireball.com. I get to make videos with the new cards for thousands of fans to watch. I get to write fun pieces (like this one), gushing about how cool Middle-earth is. What would 11-year-old Reid think of all this? I think he’d say I have a pretty cool job!

Perhaps best of all is the upcoming Pro Tour Lord of the Rings in Barcelona, Spain. This is the most prestigious event, at the highest level of competition, and it’s all centered around the LOTR set! We’ll play Modern with the new cards, and we’ll do two three-round Booster Drafts with the new set.

At the end of it all, maybe I’ll be lucky enough to be crowned the one and only Pro Tour Lord of the Rings Champion. Now that’s a title that I’d find truly precious. 

Author: Reid Duke

Magic: The Gathering Hall of Fame, Member of Team CFBUltimateGuard

Magic runs in the family for Reid. When Reid was five, his mom came home one day with two Magic starter packs for him and his brother Ian. They both hardly knew the rules but they muddled through as best they could with the rules inserts. 26 years later, Reid’s now one of Magic’s most successful and respected players in the world. Learn more about Reid.